Top critical review
106 people found this helpful
Terrible - Avoid
on 4 June 2012
I am sorry, but suggesting that this is a good starter scope, or a decent inexpensive scope for young children, is just wrong in my opinion. I am a fairly inexperienced amateur astronomer, but I do know a few things about telescopes in general having owned and used a few, and also having bought and tried to use this scope in particular. I'd say it is terrible, and so frustrating to use that I cannot think of any worse people to inflict it on than beginners or children, no matter how patient they think they are. You might think that it will make a good, or at least inexpensive, starter option and that you can always upgrade later if the interest takes hold - but my guess is that this would be a huge mistake.
There is no better way to kill a hobby stone dead than with a scope like this. I found this one fiddly to use, flimsy and with very disappointing results. Because of telescopes like this, I really wonder how many people must have put off from a hobby that can be so rewarding that it can change the way you look at the world and your place in it. So it isn't just £30 or thereabouts you'll be wasting by getting this, you might actually put some people off stargazing for life. And in fact there are other low cost alternatives too.
I bought it as a cheap, fun, travel scope - something I'd be happy to cart round to a friend's house, or perhaps take along when I go camping. It is certainly cheap for what you get, and celestron seem to be a well enough respected astronomy brand. But I thought it was very poor, and for the same reasons it would probably be little use for a beginner.
Ignore the pictures on the side of the box - you won't see images anything like them. In fact, you wouldn't with many telescopes outside of Hubble, if truth be told, but often what you'll see through other scopes will still be thrilling anyway. With this one, expect to see basic images of the moon, the odd smudge, and some stars and star systems that either won't focus properly or won't stay still long enough for you to work out what they are, let alone appreciate how beautiful they are.
Firstly, the stand is so wobbly that you will rarely get a stable scope. That means that any image will look blurred and disappointing. Secondly, the mount that the scope sits on was jerky and hard to move smoothly, or to get it to stay in the position I wanted it in. This made it difficult to find anything to look at, or to easily point to the bit of sky I wanted to point to, or to track smoothly across the stars, all of which makes the scope frustrating and no fun to actually use.
Thirdly, it uses poor quality eyepieces of a non-standard size, so you won't be able to easily replace them with something better, making the whole thing feel obsolete from the start. Fourthly, the finder scope here (basically a mini telescope stuck to the main one that you use to help find objects) makes it seem impossible to find anything. For me, it was basically point and hope - difficult even if you know what you're doing.
Finally, the tube was made of plastic and mine broke easily - within two uses the lens hood at the front of mine had broken, and two uses later the screw holding the eyepieces had lost its thread, meaning the eyepieces couldn't be held in place or focussed properly. One use later and the whole thing was in the skip.
As for other options, the usual advice, which is good but which nobody including me ever follows, is to join a local astronomy club (often for free) before buying anything, because usually the members will be happy for you to ask questions and seek advice. Most telescopes tend to be precision instruments best suited for specific purposes (some are better for planets, others for galaxies, others for things like surfing the milky way), and with telescopes there are very few genuine `all-rounders'. So the best scope for you usually depends on what you're interested in and in fact sometimes you'll end up wanting more than one.
Next off, people tend to recommend getting a pair of binoculars instead (e.g. sizes 8x40 or upwards), as even fairly basic ones (e.g. sub £50 options) will let you do many of the things a telescope would do. And binoculars will also be useful for other things, like wildlife watching in the daylight etc. In fact, most proper astronomers will use binoculars as well as a telescope, because they are quicker to use and often actually better than telescopes for viewing certain objects.
But if you really want a telescope, I reckon you can generally get decent starter scopes for around £100-£150 depending on what you are looking for. As a cheaper option for a child, or for someone who just wants to dabble for less money, I'd personally suggest something like a skywatcher or celestron heritage mini dobsonian. They're about £50 or so, and sit on a simple table-top stand. Yes, they don't look like you imagine a telescope to be, but this design was good enough for Isaac Newton and you'll get decent results. Really easy to use, they're small enough to store and take no time to set up. They will sit on an outside table top, or even a bedroom window-sill, and will give you nice views of the moon, let you spot some of Jupiter's moons, and a few star clusters. Yes, it might not be too long before you want to upgrade, but they're easy to use, robust enough for a child, and stable enough to mean you can actually see whatever you're trying to point at.